(BPT) - 'Don't play with your food!' 'Use the silverware!' You probably heard those directions from your parents when you were growing up. But times have certainly changed. Now you're the parent, and TV, video games and numerous digital devices sometimes make it challenging to get your kids to sit still at the table and enjoy a balanced meal. These days, encouraging children to 'play' with their food is actually OK - in fact, it might just be a genius way to get them to taste new things and foster their imaginations.
Multiple studies have shown that getting young ones involved in choosing and preparing foods can help them be more aware of food choices, encourage them to eat better and provide them with a sense of accomplishment. Kids may not realize they're actually learning while they're in the kitchen with you, especially if you focus on turning cooking and food prep into play time with creations that spark their interest. Although you can incorporate food lessons at any meal, after-school snacking is a particularly good time to give kids permission to have fun with their food. Plus, there's the added benefit of getting them away from the TV and/or cell phone, and interacting with you instead.
Playing with food can be as simple as taking familiar foods and presenting them in a new way. It's a great opportunity to pair new items - like raw veggies - with things the little ones already like. Farm Rich, one of the country's leading frozen snacks and appetizers brands, offers some playful ideas for helping children get creative in the kitchen using familiar inspirations at snack time.
Who doesn't love a trip to the aquarium? Serving ocean-themed snacks can be almost as good as actually being there! To make these kid-friendly treats, start with Farm Rich Crispy Dill Pickles and cook them according to package instructions. Arrange a few cooked pickles flat on a plate, and top with cucumber quarters to make the scales. For color, add red peppers or carrots to create the tails and fins. Use mustard to draw faces on the pickles, and add some arugula for seaweed and pumpkin seeds for bubbles. This snack leverages something kids already love - crispy dill pickle slices - to introduce items they may be less familiar with, such as peppers, carrots and arugula.
Is your school of fish looking lonely? It's easy to add a tentacled companion to the seascape! Just take frozen meatballs - Turkey, Original or Italian Style - and turn them into a family of octopus. Start by microwaving a dozen meatballs for 90 seconds or until they're thawed enough to easily pass a strand of uncooked linguine through. Break linguine into quarters and 'thread' each quarter through the bottom half of each meatball to make eight tentacles. Drop the octopus into boiling water and cook 12 minutes until the pasta is done. Arrange the octopi on a plate and add cheese and olives or roasted red peppers for the eyes. Serve with warm marinara sauce.
Ready to get your feet back on dry land? Here are two more playful snack recipes to try.
Great for snacks or a silly supper, these little sandwiches pair a kid-friendly favorite - barbecued pork - with a hearty dose of whimsy. To add caterpillars to the plate, heat two packages of Smokehouse Pulled Pork BBQ and cover with your child's favorite BBQ sauce. Place a generous quarter cup of pork on eight hamburger buns and layer the sandwiches to make a caterpillar shape. Fill in any gaps with lettuce leaves and add carrot sticks for legs. Cherry tomatoes and olives make perfect eyes, and party picks serve as antennae. Serve with coleslaw as a sandwich topper or side, and add extra veggies for a nutritional punch!
French Toast Pups Finally, to add in more cuteness, serve up these little French Toast Puppies as an after-school or a breakfast dish. Here's how: cook Farm Rich French Toast Sticks according to package instructions, then cut simple ear, leg and tail shapes out of the cooked sticks and arrange them on the plate. Add currants or raisins for the eyes and nose. Line the plate with berries and serve with syrup for dipping. It's as easy as a walk in the park! For these and more playful snack ideas, visit www.farmrich.com/recipes-tips/inspiration.
Finally, to add in more cuteness, serve up these little French Toast Puppies as an after-school or a breakfast dish. Here's how: cook Farm Rich French Toast Sticks according to package instructions, then cut simple ear, leg and tail shapes out of the cooked sticks and arrange them on the plate. Add currants or raisins for the eyes and nose. Line the plate with berries and serve with syrup for dipping. It's as easy as a walk in the park! For these and more playful snack ideas, visit www.farmrich.com/recipes-tips/inspiration.
For these and more playful snack ideas, visit www.farmrich.com/recipes-tips/inspiration.